Mumbai or Bombay as the English called it is typical of other parts of India in that it is full of contradictions. Those that haven't been to India before will not be prepared for the contraction that is India. It is unbelievable huge country with a range of temperatures. Its dry and hot and cold and wet. Its rich and poor. Dirty and clean. It's old and new. It's traditional and its innovative. It’s the most populous country in the world that speak English - more than England And the most amazing things, from a tourist perspective is that it all works in harmony.
I love been surprised and wrong. A quick to trip to India for a girls weekend blew my mind open to Mumbai. A city that wasn't on my horizon to visit - it was always going to be Delhi. Yet on a long weekend in late November I find myself lining up at Immigration for my e-visa at Mumbai International Airport. Don't expect the process to be fast and you will already be starting off your adventure on the right foot.
The first thing that strikes me as you eventually get out of the airport and on the road for the 30 minute ride down town is how green Mumbai is. The second thing to strike you will be any spinal problems as road was super bump with big potholes.
The place for my stay was the majestic Taj Palace Mumbai and if you have any spare change to spare it’s a place not to miss. This is truely a stunning place to lay your head at night. Not only are the rooms tasteful but the service is delightful. The food delicious. The grounds green and stunning. Its location central - the Gateway of India is across the road and there are some nice places nearby that you can walk to - something that is normally unheard of in India.
We started off our adventure with a lovely breakfast in the garden. Then it was straight out to meet our driver and head off to explore Mumbai. First stop of the day was to check out the amazing Tiffin delivery service that is unique to Mumbai.
The Tiffin contains a homemade lunch box which is then collected and transported through a maze of systems to get in to the hands and belly's of those intended for it. These guys deliver around 17,500 lunchboxes a day and they success rate is staggering; they make a mistake 1 in 16th million!! This ingenious system uses a unique ID number which somehow makes it to the recipient. The service costs 900 rupees a month which is about $12 US dollars or 10 pounds.
After checking this off our plan of the day was to visit some temples, the market, the architectural delights of Mumbai and some sightseeing around the hotel.
We visited four differently temples which were all celebrating different gods. They were all beautiful ornate buildings that were bustling with activity. Many people travelled to their temple from outside the city and were tourists just like us. Around the temples you can buy goods such flower garlands, fruit, candy and even postcards to take as offerings to the gods of the temple.
Two important things to note when visiting temples in India. Wear shoes to slip out of easy as you need to be barefoot to enter. If you are a little germaphotic take some little foot stockings to slip into so you aren’t bare foot. Number two – no phototgraphy. Number 3 – it may not be your religion or anything you take seriouosly but take it seriously! If there is one thing I can’t stand is disreopecting others religitions as its not theres. Surely one of the foundations of religion wherever you go is to treat one another with respect.
20 hours a day depending on the season
Worker make 6-10 per day maybe 20 garlands depending on season (wedding summer).
People from all over town come to buy
Even out the front where many were thrown out ladies sat crouching picking out anything they could salvage to put together to sell. Very industrious.
Laundry Dhobi Ghat
Biggest open air in the world which was orinally opened by the English to wash soldiers uniforms. According to our guide there is about 175,000 clothes washed by hand every day. Its mind blowing that not are they just laundring clothes but they are tagging every piece of laundry so none of it goes missing. As we saw with the Tinfin system - India has a unique way of tracking items.
It was a really interesting place to visit. It was so very clean - smelt of bleach in some places. Each district was separated like you would do with your wash - Whites, business shirts and school shirts, Hospital laundry, Jeans and Saris all had separate sections. Our guide Dinish’s said his school uniforms were sent there when he went to school and apparently english and Australian forces still send their uniforms there for laundering.
There were many different ways that each little business was operating also. Some hand washing in big concrete tanks and bashing against wall. Some businesses had spin machines, or huge tumble dryers. There was also a section where men where ironing clothes (just the way it should be) - some were electrical and some were powered by coal burners which were incredibly heavy. For those interested in air drying - even that system was ingenious – not a peg in sight but the clothes line rope was twisted in a way that they would just poke the clothes through which were meant it was fast to take the laundry in.
It was an entire suburb where people lived and worked. Kids were bathing and the workers were having their mid-day nap after eating lunch. It felt harmonious and felt safe. Visiting the site gave us travellers some interesting discussion about the invasion of privacy into their homes and workplaces. Like we were invading and taking advantage of them. We also had a similar discussion about vising the slums area – which we decided not to do due to time. Persasonally I didn’t feel like we were. It was such an industrious and interesting thing to visit. And the people were welcoming and proud to be showing off their work. The place wasn't teaming with tourists and bus loads so it don't feel like a tourist attraction. In a city of 23 million and growing rapidly with migration from the country and with such technology advancement in the word it felt like that these hardworking industrious people were doing whatever it takes to keep and maintain there income and lifestyle.
Where to Eat in Mumbai
Eating out in Mumbai you have so many choices from cheap and cheerful to rich and ridiculous.
Lunch at San Qi at the Four Seasons Hotel was lovely, casual and cheap. It provided a great sanctuary from the dust, heat and bustle of the city. We had a range of bento boxes and Asian nibbles. The chef who was a friend of our guide Denish, gave us a beautiful tasting plater to try.
Ziya at the Oberoi for a Michelin star indian tali meal. The view was lovely and the surrounds too. Obviously a favourite meeting spot for business meetings. But seriously I have had better thali before and much better chi.
A fun café bar that has had all the famous people visit it. A place with a wild and diverse history from the famous to terror. This place has had the Beatle drink there and survive terrorists attacks 10 years ago. Bar snacks and beer or cakes. Security out front never felt uncomfortable.
Street food in Mumbai
Best food was panipuri kiosk on the street where Outsourced was filmed. Vegetarian Snack that can be sweet or savoury depending on the sauce or gravy they include. It is a crisp fried ball that are filled with sprouts, tamarind chutney, chilli, chaat Marsala, potatoe, onion and chickpeas. Depending on where you live in the world you can buy pre-made or make it all yourself. Delicious mix of sweet and sour, spiced and savory that I’d s party in the mouth.. try to stop at just one. In the northern states its called golgappa and in Bengal is a puchka. Whatever its called – you got to get one.
Close to the hotel at Colaba. Listed on to the top 10 breakfast places in Mumbai and Top 10 best bars in Colbar. Red wine – tried Indian red wine before and my good friend from Delhi will tell you that “we don’t make wine” and I agree with her. Maybe in time but yet to enjoy one in Indian. Tapas type snacks and wine. Cute and cosy modern interior. Does all breakfast but we were dinning late around 10 so international gourmet meets delicatessen of a chain.
Wasabi by Morimoto
Located at the Taj Mahal Palace and voted as One of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2018 by San Pellegrino this authentic Japanese restaurant is another in the franchise from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Chef Morimoto is all about pairing Japanese food for an American (western) palate but to me it was rather bland. Apparently all the ingredients are shipped in especially from Japan but can't say I had any lasting impressions about the food after eating Japanese around the world before. Nothing to write home about.
Where to stay in Mumbai
Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai
I urge you to splurge if you can and take the opportunity to enjoy it. This stunning 5 star luxury hotel dates back to 1903 and is another jewel in the crown for the Taj Hotel group.
It a whose who of people who have stayed there over its history from kings and queens to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Australian cricket Team. Two nights cost us $1000 Australian dollars or $700 USA or 571 pounds. My friend and I shared a room and it was well worth it and a tick off the bucket list.
Its centrally located near the Gate Of India and many the touristy historical district of Mumbai. They have just camemorated the 10 years since the bombing of the hotel and security is just as tight to get in to the hotel. This I have experienced before in India and one becomes accustomed to. But if you are a first timer, there is nothing to fear when the guards stop the car, looked in the boot (trunk) or under the bonnet searching for bombs and such.
The High Tea and the breakfast in the garden are wonderful tasty ways to start and finish your day while sightseeing in Mumbai. From check-in to check out you can’t bet it. The service and hospitality you can’t beat – it truly is wonderful and the staff seem to genuinely appear happy to work there.
How to get around in Mumbai
Highlights of Mumbai tour
You have to give it to any man that spends two days with four women touring the city. Dinesh our guide was a lovely young gentleman that was full of a facts and figures about Mumbai. He was also incredibly humble. From Temples, to flower markets to the largest outdoor laundry in the world Dinesh was the man to show you his city. We felt looked after and he was extremely knowledge about his town and was proud to show it off in all its glory.